Virginia’s Dubious Voter Purge Amid a Crucial Election

Voting rights are under assault in Virginia, and it’s unfolding right under our noses, during one of the most pivotal elections in recent history. Alarmingly, the Virginia Department of Elections, under Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s watch, has admitted to striking eligible voters off the state’s rolls mere weeks before a crucial legislative election, and it stinks of anti-democratic subterfuge.

Here’s the down and dirty: Virginia has a unique policy where individuals convicted of a felony are automatically stripped of their voting rights, unless the governor steps in to restore them. According to reports, a staggering more than 17,000 eligible voters, who had their rights previously restored, were unlawfully swept off the voter rolls. This injustice was spawned by an ill-conceived effort by ELECT to ax individuals who regained their voting rights but were later convicted of a new felony.

However, here’s the catch: the masses who had their democratic voices silenced were guilty of mere technical probation violations, NOT new felonies. A not-so-minor blunder by the Virginia State Police (VSP) in providing data to ELECT inadvertently axed individuals whose rights had been magnanimously restored by the previous governor.

It’s both straightforward and enshrined in the Virginia Constitution: Once voting rights are restored, a simple probation violation isn’t grounds for retraction. The ACLU of Virginia has minced no words in highlighting the stark reality: The Youngkin administration is actively engaging in disenfranchising Virginians, shrouding voters in mystery, and wielding the power to cherry-pick the electorate.

Susan Beals, at the helm of the Department of Elections, assures they’re diligently identifying and reinstating wrongly purged voters. But let’s be candid: The damage, in many cases, might already be done.

The Democratic Party of Virginia isn’t sitting idly by, demanding a thorough investigation into the Youngkin administration, and asserting that the purging of eligible voters is far from a mere oversight. It’s a “criminal affront to the basic foundations of democracy,” according to Susan Swecker, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

All this unfolds against the backdrop of an election that could potentially reshape abortion rights in Virginia. In a race so vital that the Democratic National Committee injected $1.2 million into the state’s campaigns and saw Vice President Kamala Harris championing the importance of the youth vote, the purge of voters couldn’t come at a worse time.

And the burning question remains: With such egregious violations of democratic norms, how much will this purge chill Virginians’ electoral participation? Advocates for voting rights, like Aaron Mukerjee of the Democratic Party of Virginia, warn, “Virginians are actively being disenfranchised in this election by extremist policies designed to make it harder to vote and easier to cheat.”